Bonnie Germain knows a thing or two about raising kids.
After all, during the roughly 10 years she and her husband spent as foster parents, there were times the couple had 10 kids in their home. Germain, a Mid-States accounts receivable specialist who joined the team in December 2017, and her husband Mark began fostering in the early 1990s, kind of by accident. The couple, who have three children of their own, first took in another child when one of their son’s friends needed a place to stay. The Germains didn’t want to see the boy uprooted from his school and friends, so they took him in. When they saw the impact it had on the boy, the couple knew they had something to offer.
Over the course of the next decade, they would foster seven children ranging in age from 10-months-old to teenagers, while both Germain and her husband worked full-time. Their own children – daughter Joey and sons Chris and Chad – were in their teens when the family started fostering.
“The impact was knowing that we were helping families out, especially the kids,” Germain said. “The younger ones were the easiest. The older kids had been through a lot more, so times were harder with them.”
With so many children in the house, the family relied on the teenagers to help with the little ones, and everyone had their responsibilities. Germain said the washer and dryer in their home never stopped and she learned a lot about cooking, like that bacon doesn’t have to be laid flat to cook, and when you are scrambling the amount of eggs the Germains were, a blender is a wrist-saver. The Germains also went through more cereal than they could have ever imagined. And since both parents worked, and served as volunteer EMTs, finding daycare could sometimes be a challenge.
So, what did the family learn from their time fostering?
“No matter what obstacles there are in life, you can overcome them and find ways to help others,” Germain said.
The hardest part for Germain was getting close to the kids, and then having to let them go when DCFS was ready to give them back to their parents. Fosters generally stayed with the Germains anywhere from six months to four years, though the family often did not get a lot of history on the kids.
“The kids just became a part of us,” Germain said. “We never excluded them from anything.”
Germain could never be present when it came time to give the kids back to the custody of DCFS, and relied heavily on her husband to take care of that. In fact, it was her husband that put an end to fostering after a particularly hard good-bye with a little girl.
Although the rules of fostering prohibit the family from keeping in touch with the kids they fostered, the Germains have at least been able to stay in touch with their son’s friend, who kicked off their entire fostering journey. Although their house isn’t full of kids these days, the Germains have seven pets in the house currently, and you just never know when that might expand.